Food Processors Scramble to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Operating costs and the environment have processors scrambling to reduce carbon emissions.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Although the volume of HFCs used in industry is relatively low, their environmental impact is significant because the global warming potential (GWP) of these gases is thousands of times greater than the GWP of carbon dioxide.

Beyond the food processing plant, “transportation has a huge impact on carbon emissions,” says John Hoekstra, manager of energy sustainability at Summit Energy Services (www.summitenergy.com), Louisville, Ky.

“For transportation, we’re looking at everything from the fuel efficiency to the tire inflation — all the little things that you can do,” says Ellen Feeney, vice president of responsible livelihood at WhiteWave Foods (www.whitewave.com), Broomfield, Colo. “We’re tracking the miles, trying to make each one of the loads more efficient.”

A wholly owned subsidiary of leading milk processor Dean Foods Co., WhiteWave makes and markets brands such as Silk soymilk and Horizon Organic dairy products.

Feeney adds that WhiteWave’s transportation team was already doing a great deal to make the fleet as efficient as possible when the company conducted its first corporate GHG-emissions audit in 2006. But data from the audit gave that team — and colleagues in the plant and on WhiteWave’s farms — an extra layer of data and deeper insight into how the company was using energy and other resources and how it could reduce GHG emissions.

 

Dean Foods’ Horizon Organic farm in Maryland has solar energy panels on its roof.

Included in WhiteWave’s audit were all sources of GHGs, including methane and nitrous oxide emissions caused by enteric fermentation and animal waste. On WhiteWave’s behalf, Clear Carbon Consulting created a GHG database to store all corporate electricity, fuel, refrigeration, fleet and waste data.

WhiteWave conducted another audit in 2007 and found it useful to compare the results year over year. “The process is really a reiterative one in that you do the baseline audit and start charting your course. When you do the second year, any discrepancies in the numbers jump out at you and you turn into an investigative reporter,” Feeney says.

WhiteWave’s corporate mission includes a strong commitment to social and environmental responsibility; the company has been buying renewable energy credits since 2003. As part of that culture, the company encourages sustainability efforts even at the level of individual employees.

“It’s not just our greenhouse gas audit. There are things we’ve done culturally to save energy,” Feeney says. Through the corporate Values in Action program, “we give points to employees who take the stairs instead of the elevator. And we give points for making a commitment to turn off the lights. It’s not just with the big stuff like the plants.”

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